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Starting in spring next year, a crew of six will be sent on a 500 day simulated mission to Mars.
To investigate the psychological and medical aspects of a long-duration mission, such as to Mars, ESA is looking for experiment proposals for research to be carried out during their stay.
During the simulated Mars mission, known as Mars500, the crew will be put through all kinds of scenarios as if they really were travelling to the Red Planet – including a launch, an outward journey of up to 250 days, arrival at Mars and, after an excursion to the surface, they will face the long journey home.
Locked in the facility in Moscow, the crew will have tasks similar to those they would have on a real space mission.
They will have to cope with simulated emergencies; they may even have real emergencies or illnesses.
Communication delays of as much as 20 minutes each way will not make life any easier.
Our main interest is to look at the psychology of such a mission, knowing that you are enclosed for 500 days.
As soon as there is a problem, the crew knows that they are on their own, and they have to solve it themselves.
The only help available from the outside is through communications which may take up to 40 minutes.